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  University of Central Florida Summer 2007

UCF/IST Researcher Receives $3M Grant to Explore Adaptive Intelligent Training Environments

The Office of Naval Research has awarded UCF's Institute for Simulation & Training a three-year, $3 million grant to explore how ways to measure human performance might be built into simulation training devices.

A goal is to develop a system that continuously monitors the user and adapts itself to achieve the best training results. Performance feedback from a commercial driver in a challenging high traffic situation, for example, could signal a monitoring system to delay a radio message until the driver is better able to respond. Training devices would be able to measure human performance, both as observable behaviors and at typically "invisible" cognitive levels.

The grant is funded under the Navy's Human Performance, Training, and Education (HPT&E) program.

Dr. Denise Nicholson (above left), director of the IST's Applied Cognition and Training in Immersive Virtual Environments (ACTIVE) Laboratory, assembled a multidisciplinary team of collaborators to accomplish the research goals. Collaborators include Drs. Clint Bowers, Cali Fidopiastis and Larry Davis from UCF; Design Interactive, Inc., an Orlando-based technology small business led by Dr. Kay Stanney; Florida Atlantic University; Clemson University; the Naval Postgraduate School and Pennsylvania State University.

In an effort closely related to the HPT&E program, Dr. Nicholson will co-chair the 2007 meeting of the Augmented Cognition International (ACI) Conference.

For more information, please contact Dr. Denise Nicholson at 407-882-1444 or visit the ACTIVE website at http://active.ist.ucf.edu.


Interactive exhibits to enhance Everglades education at Ft. Lauderdale museum

IST’s Media Convergence Lab will develop interactive science exhibits to enhance learning experiences at the Fort Lauderdale Museum of Discovery and Science.  The project is supported by a five-year $2.84 million National Science Foundation grant.

The project is a culmination of years of concept development efforts and feasibility studies by founding MCL director Christopher Stapleton (below), current director Charles Hughes and research faculty member Eileen Smith (left). Ms. Smith was chosen to lead the project for her expertise in hands-on science exhibit development.

The Media Convergence Lab will design exhibits that will allow museum guests to interactively explore the Water’s Journey through the Everglades exhibit through large display portals, virtual windows, tele-presence cameras and environmental simulators. Learning enhancements will be part of the museum’s new EcoDiscovery Wing expansion.

Guests will explore the complex combination of events and ecological change that contribute to creation, destruction and restoration of the Florida Everglades. The adventure spans millions of years. Unique learning experiences will integrate scientific data from national research institutions and apply state-of-the-art virtual exploration tools that will reveal the scale and timing of environmental change.

Other UCF faculty participating in the project are Dr. Linda Walters (Biology), Dr. Mark Johnson (Actuarial Science), MCL Director Dr. Charles Hughes (College of Engineering and Computer Science) and Dr. Karla Kitalong (English).

Project deliverables will build on prior research that demonstrates how various learning environments play unique roles in successful learning. Past Media Convergence Lab research has explored ways to capture the imagination of visitors with technology that enhances a physical exhibit hall.

A web portal accessed by desktop computer, cell phone or PDA, will entice young people to learn about the scientific and artistic aspects of the technology in the exhibit, allowing them to create personal models to populate the venue’s virtual environment. The Media Convergence Lab will lead the scenario development, directly managing the design and implementation of the educational content, which will be identified by museum team members. The Orlando Science Center will serve as a prototype and play-testing partner to help inform the design and implementation of the learning enhancements. A UCF start-up tech company, Simiosys, will adapt innovative user interfaces. The Institute for Learning Innovation will oversee the entire evaluation process and conduct the summative evaluation.

Researchers study whether forest fire simulations can influence fire policies

(from an article by Chad Binette, UCF News and Information)

Photo: courtesy of Charles Hughes


IST has joined with Department of Economics researchers Glenn Harrison and Elisabet Rutström, Charles Hughes (Electrical Engineering and Computer Science) and Steve Fiore (Philosophy/IST) to discover whether virtual reality can be used effectively to help residents and policymakers see near- and long-term effects of economic and political decisions on wildfire prevention.

At stake is a better way for everyone—from forestry professionals to residents with no wildfire expertise—to make choices about how much time, effort and money to invest in wildfire prevention. Researchers hope the simulation tool will provide a way for residents and policymakers alike to become better decision makers.

People currently have only written information on which to base their decisions about how much to spend on insurance and prescribed burns. Using a virtual reality simulation tool they can see what effects various prevention strategies will have down the road. With the simulation they can compress 30 years of forest management choices into an hour to see the result of their decisions.

The National Science Foundation is providing $680,000 for the two-year study. Simulations should begin within six months with first results coming at the end of 2007.

Researchers chose Volusia County due to its 1998 experience with massive wildfires. They wanted an area in which many residents will have lived through wildfires. They plan to use actual data for topography, weather, roads, housing density and vegetation. Much of the data will be taken from Florida Division of Forestry models, which use the above information and the locations of man-made fire breaks to predict the path, speed and intensity of wildfires. Those models are used in wildfire policy planning.

Wildfire simulations will be designed under Charles Hughes' direction. The forest simulation will be able to model rapidly evolving wildfires, giving participants a realistic look at forests before, during and after fires and prescribed burns. Steve Fiore will analyze how the decisions of expert participants, such as forestry officials, vary from the decisions of participants without expertise in the subject. He also will examine how decisions may vary for residents who have experienced wildfires first-hand and those who have only seen images of them on television.

Economists Harrison and Rutström will focus on the economic decisions that participants make and on why they decide—or not—to invest money in prescribed burns or insurance. They will try to determine what factors cause some people to be more averse to risks than others. Their insights could aid in the development of public support for policies that reduce the risks of wildfires.

Student robotics club comes home with podium spot in design

The Ground Vehicle Team from the UCF Robotics Club recently competed in the 15th annual Intelligent Ground Vehicle Competition (IGVC) at Oakland University in Michigan. For the last six years UCF students have entered this event, which requires them to design and build an autonomous ground robot capable of obstacle avoidance, waypoint navigation and lane following in outdoor/unknown environments.

This year the team brought a new ground robot, Gamblore (left), to the competition. In a field of 38 they won 3rd place in design. This event requires submission of a 15-page technical document covering strategy and subsystems and presentation before a panel of industry judges.

The teams consist of many different engineering disciplines including computer science, and mechanical, electrical and computer engineering. Alexander Leonessa, College of Engineering & Computer Science, is the group's faculty advisor. IST helps sponsor the student-run Robotics Laboratory, providing lab space and coordination. IST's Daniel Barber manages the lab's activities.

Competition is keen for the top three spots in Autonomous Challenge, Design and Navigation Challenge categories. A Grand Award is given to the team that garners the most points over all the categories. Virginia Polytechnic Institute, Grand Award winner for the past three years, has been the team to beat. In 2005 Virginia took the top three Grand Award slots with UCF in a respectable fourth place, but saw its aging robot vehicle, Calculon, slip to eighth place in 2006.

For this year's competition the team began with a clean drawing board. Where Calculon was built on a hand-me-down motorized wheel chair chassis, the team built Gamblore from the ground up.


Top students receive "student of the year" recognition

One undergraduate and eight graduate and students working and studying at IST recently carried home an institute Student of the Year plaque.

Pausing for this picture after the awards presentation with IST's deputy director Brian Goldiez (front row left) were front row: Dustin Chertoff, Jason Smith; back row from left: Lee Sciarini, Michael Rosen, Michael Whiteley and Don Kemper. Not pictured: Rex Olesen, Mario Rosa and Thomas Fincannon.

Graduate student Dustin Chertoff assisted with hurricane damage visualization and automated scoring of fire support team exercises.

Undergrad Jason Smith created new interface techniques for the ongoing after-action review project and a system for visualization of fire support team performance.

Graduate Lee Sciarini applied his academic skills and unique military experience to operation and coordination of the institute's ACTIVE lab (see story above) with collaborators and program sponsors.

Grad student Michael Rosen played a central role in developing a method fro generating simulation scenarios and performance measurement tools for training emergency medicine residents.

Michael Whitely, also a graduate student, worked on intuitive means for robotic control and helped create a "Commander Node" for a testbed to study operator-commander team issues.

Don Kemper, graduate, Made critical contributions to research performed for the Army Research Lab and designed an architecture for UV simulation control interfaces, contributing ideas for interoperability of real world and simulated unmanned systems in a distributed simulation environment.

Graduate Rex Oleson directed all graduate student work on the simulation aspects of IST's crowd modeling project, supervised the running of crowd simulations and collected and formatted resulting data.

Mario Rosa, graduate, assisted with engineering and statistical analysis for the crowd modeling project, supervised two undergraduate students, captured formatted, quantified and analyzed video data gathered during the project.

Graduate student Thomas Fincannnon was responsible for day-to-day administration and management of human-robot interaction research efforts, a role normally fulfilled by a very senior graduate student or post-doctoral researcher. He supervised undergraduate students, wrote progress reports, drafted technical reports, submitted conference proposals and planned and conducted a study of robot-operator skill development, with findings of significant application to the Team Performance Laboratory.



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